To answer this question effectively, we need to go back, to a time before she was born – to the time when I first learned I was going to be a father. We’d been trying for a baby for a little while, but I wasn’t sure how long it would take for my wife to fall pregnant. Then, one evening, she took a test, and it came up as positive. Another test followed the next morning; she confirmed it – she was pregnant – I was going to be a father!

I went to work that morning in something of a daze. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to tell everyone, but of course, you can’t – so I kept my mouth shut, waiting until the twelve week scan mark. That felt like a long wait!

In fact, whilst I waited for nine months to see my little girl, it actually felt like a moment my whole life had been building up to. Sitting with my wife in the hospital as we waited, and waited, and waited for my daughter to arrive, was one of the longest days (and nights!) of my life. Then, after an eternity, one of the midwifes announced she could see the baby’s head, and at that point, I felt my control snap. Emotions hit me and hit me hard. This was the moment I would finally lay eyes on my baby.

I cried. I cried when she appeared, I cried when she let out her little cry, and when I got to hold her for the first time, telling her (as my voice threatened to crack) ‘hello, I’m your daddy’. Even as I type this, I can feel myself welling up. In that moment, my life and my world were complete. I had everything I could never want or need.

The other day I posted a call to ask me questions. Well, I already have quite a few! The first of these asks ‘how I met my wife?’

The year was 1889… actually it was July 2004. England had not long made their customary hurried exit from a major football tournament. The Cassini-Huygens probe entered orbit around Saturn. If we want to get technical, I’d started talking to the lady who would become my wife a few weeks before, online and on the phone, but I didn’t actually meet her until the 10th of July, 2004.

It was a hot day. I made my way from King’s Cross station to Fenchurch Street (previously completely unknown to me), and met her as she got off a train. Straight away I thought she was beautiful, but we were meeting as friends (in fact, the original plan was for a group meet-up via a web forum, that everyone blew out), and I wasn’t going to presume anything. I just wanted to have a nice day that would be different from the usual weekend fare, and if that led anywhere…

So, what did we do? My memories aren’t 100% anymore, but I recall visiting an art gallery, and having lunch at Planet Hollywood, which included an amazing chocolate brownie dessert thingy, that I took a photo of, and still had until recently. We wandered around Covent Garden and Leicester Square. I felt myself wanting to get to know this woman more. I was a little guarded back then – a few bad experiences made me wary of opening up – but she put me at ease. I could relax with her. By the end of the day, we were kissing, cuddling, and I knew I had to see her again. We parted ways, but that night, I could still feel her arms wrapped around me. It was the strangest sensation, the warmest and happiest feeling, and one I’d never felt before. Since then, we’ve had our ups and downs, as all couples have, but it didn’t take me long to decide I wanted to marry her, even if the proposal wasn’t the most elegant proposal! I don’t remember exactly how long it had been, but I knew I wouldn’t find anyone who would understand me quite like she did.

The rest, as they say, is history! Here we are, thirteen years later, and we’ve been married for nearly eight of those. We have a beautiful daughter, a happy home, and I have found my place in this crazy world.

Last night I dreamed of the day I met my wife for the first time. The dream didn’t exactly line up to reality – I don’t recall being hounded by paparazzi or driving around town – but it made me stop to appreciate the woman I married.

She renewed me. When we met, I was coming off the back of some painful experiences with love and I had gone through the stages of feeling angry and then doing my best not to care. The moment I ‘let it go’, I met her.

We started out by chatting on the phone and online, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Her voice was immediately beautiful and I was intrigued to know her better, so we arranged to meet in London and spend the day doing some of the touristy stuff that people do in our fair capital. I met her at Fenchurch Street station – that place will always be significant to me.

We lunched at Planet Hollywood (I wish I still had that picture of the most epic chocolate brownie in all humanity), and we visited an art museum. Naturally, we swung by Leicester Square and Covent Garden. We talked and talked, and before long I was keen to hold her hand – a simple gesture but one we were soon doing.

It annoys me that I can’t remember where we first kissed – it was an Underground station and it was pretty spontaneous, and it felt wonderful. As the evening wore on we settled into a Starbucks and cuddled and kissed some more, and when it was time to see her back to the station, I knew I had to see her again.

That night, as I drifted off to sleep, I could still feel her arms around me. I had never experienced that feeling with anyone else, and I’ve never felt more secure.

She still makes me feel this way. Despite the mistakes and the cockups and me being an idiot from time to time, she has somehow retained her sanity and helped me to keep mine. She has given me the greatest of all gifts – a beautiful daughter. My wife has left me in fits of hysterical laughter (man with the face), can cheer me up simply by holding my hand, and has done more for me than I can ever repay. I love her.

When I was thinking about this post, I wondered how best to approach it. 07/07/15 marks the tenth anniversary of a terrible event carried out by young men whose hearts were filled with hate by other, evil men. They did it because they thought they were acting in the interests and wishes of their religious and cultural beliefs.

It would be all too easy to let their act be the thing that defines the anniversary. It is far more important though, to remember the unity and defiance of Londoners, both on the day itself and on the anniversary (and indeed, the unity of the country). We will not be cowed, or coerced, or scared into being anything other than ourselves. We will not turn on one another, or run from one another.

WALKTOGETHER

WALKTOGETHER2We’ll remember those who were lost in the right way, by taking comfort in the memories.

This time of year is important to me. It was on the 10th of July 2004 that I met my wife, so for me, I won’t let the tragic events of 7/7 cloud this occasion. The terrorists won’t take anything away from it for me.